Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Philippians 4:8
As a prescription for healthy thinking Paul recommends a solid dose of what is true, a regular regimen of what is noble, and a daily diet of what is “right.” Clearly we can’t very well practice right thinking without thinking about what is “right.”
Unfortunately the world we live in right now isn’t right, not right in the head and even less right in the heart. It can be discouraging sometimes that after all these millennia we aren’t any better than our ancestors, and in some ways we’re worse. We might know more stuff and have more stuff but we don’t seem to be better where it counts.
When receiving his Noble Prize in 1964 Martin Luther King Jr. said: “In spite of spectacular strides in science and technology, and still unlimited ones to come, something basic is missing. . . We have learned to fly in the air like birds and swim in the sea like fish, but we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”
That “simple art of living together as brothers (and sisters)” is the kind of right that Paul encourages us to set our minds on. About two-thirds of popular Bible versions translate this word, “just.” One translation even uses the word “fair.”
For a lot of Christians, when they consider things that are not right, their minds go straight to things like alcohol, adultery, and anger (or whatever other dirty deeds that God forbids). The “just” treatment of the least, last, and lost are not so much on their radar. If they do think about justice at all it’s all too often “just us” (our family, our group, our people) on their minds. Even our country’s founders were thinking about what was right when they spoke of the “common good” and “liberty and justice for all.”
As in the case of each of these eight mental themes, the best place to begin our meditation on justice is on the God who is just. “The Lord is known by his acts of justice,” says David (Psalm 9:16). If we want to be like him, we have to “do justly” as well as “love mercy, and walk humbly” (Micah 6:8).
Then if we’re going to live justly we’ll have to first imagine what justice looks like. If we’re to “Do unto those downstream as we would have those upstream do unto us,” as Wendell Berry says, people less fortunate than us will have to show up on our radar.
When I’m particularly dismayed about injustice in the world, which is pretty much all the time these days, I have to tell my soul to double down on the God of justice, the Creator who will ultimately bring about a just society. “A bruised reed he will not break,” says Jesus, “and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he has brought justice through to victory” (Matthew 12:20). Every time I sneak a look at the back of the Book, I feel better that someday we will live in a world of justice.
Another healing balm for my dismay over injustice is the example set by those who prioritize, love, and care for those suffering under the hammer of injustices such as racism, classism, inequality, and meritocracy. Such legacies as William Wilberforce, Susan B. Anthony, Ida B. Wells, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela, Bishop Tutu, Malala Yousafzai*, and many others give me hope for a better world today and tomorrow.
*Google some of the names if you’re not familiar with them, especially if you need to be reminded that there is good in the world.
So, take a few minutes right now and soak in one or more things that are just and see if it doesn’t right your flight for the rest of the day. Share some of those things with us…
Stay tuned for Pondering Things Pure.